Every year around this time, the #PopHatesFlops community comes together to celebrate the year in pop music and to compile our annual list of our favourite songs of the year. While previous years lists have been microcosms of the genres that populated them - last year focused heavily on country-pop, while 2016 was big on slinky synthpop and 2015 was loving the tropical pop trend - this year's list is remarkable for it's lack of trendiness, showing that in 2018 there's no longer any such thing as an era in pop music. It's a testament to how fractured the industry is in the age of streaming apps and the dwindling importance of radio that our members have chosen such wide ranging songs as piano ballads, acoustic guitar work and 90s-styled R&B, and that all of them sound current and fresh.
For the first time ever, we've included a Spotify playlist of this year's entries so you can listen along to the songs while you read our thoughts. Whether you're out partying it up at your local New Year's celebrations or spending a quiet day nursing your hangover at home, we hope that this list will bring you joy as you celebrate the coming of another year. And once again, we have to say a big thank you to the amazing members who make not only this list, but also this forum possible. We love you all and we wish you only the best in 2019!
18. Clean Bandit - Baby (Feat. Marina & Luis Fonsi)
Submitted By: @Skinny Legend
Little had been heard of the artist previously known as Marina and the Diamonds since 2015's experimental Froot album, which is why it was all the more surprising that she decided to make her long-awaited comeback with dance-pop sensations Clean Bandit and generic Hispanic stereotype Luis Fonsi. 'Baby' is just as generic as it's composers would imply, but that doesn't stop it from being one of the best-produced and straight up fun songs of the year. Marina handles the change from squeaky sex kitten in the verse to acoustic guitar balladeer in the pre-chorus to triumphant Selena impersonator in the chorus with style, and even the typically irritating Fonsi manages to impress with his brand of Latin flair. Hopefully 'Baby' is a sign that Marina's ready to give up her pretentions of making alternative music in favour of a more laidback, carefree style.
17. Avril Lavigne - Head Above Water
Submitted By: @kallumlavigne
Avril Lavigne's powerful comeback after a long hiatus 'Head Above Water' - apart from the obvious green screen and body double in the video - is stunning. The song itself is quiet: a powerful, slow ballad that finds redemption towards it's last chorus, and it's a very different sound from the in your face guitar-based pop-punk tunes she's known for. But the piano delivers well, the instrumental is a euphoric experience and Avril's semi-soft vocals take the crown this year for me. Also, its low, but it's on Billboard's list of the best songs of 2018.
16. Kim Petras - Tell Me It's a Nightmare
Submitted By: @Turn Ya Head
Kim Petras, perhaps the most promising upcoming singer from the past three years, has released numerous buzz singles between 2017 and 2018; but in my opinion, her best work so far is one of the tracks from her Halloween-themed EP Turn Off The Light, Vol. 1.
'Tell Me It's a Nightmare' is a dark dance-oriented track which follows a remarkable instrumental song on the EP, creating an ethereal flow that some albums seem to lack these days. The ambiguous, yet intriguing lyrics, manage to convey a sense of horror and desperation that slightly contrasts with the rest of the EP.
"Tell me it's a nightmare/And you ain't going nowhere/Try to save ya, warn ya, keep you alive/Try to stop ya, but you paid the price", sings Petras in a pleading manner. Who is she trying to save? What is she trying to save them from? Only her and the person who this song is dedicated to will ever know. Maybe she's trying to save them from herself. Maybe she's trying to save them from a potentially abusive relationship. The mystery allows the listener to apply the lyrics to their own personal life and therefore makes them relatable to almost anyone.
The high-pitched vocals showcase Petras's singing ability and charisma. The production allows her crystal clear voice to shine and complement the haunting bass that's so prominent in the instrumental. The song ends with a haunting segment, in which she repeatedly sings non-lexical vocals in a catchy tune.
What else could a pop fan ask from a song? Good lyrics, stellar production, a carefully engineered instrumental and outstanding vocals. 'Tell Me It's a Nightmare' might not be a mainstream hit or a chart topper, but it surely is a masterpiece.
15. Kacey Musgraves - Happy & Sad
Submitted By: @nanapop99
I used to hate country music and I probably still do, but the good sis Kacey really did that with her latest album Golden Hour. In my opinion the album deserves to win Album of the Year at the Grammy's, but that's another subject. Anyways, country music is a genre I don't really listen to but these past few years we've seen pop divas like Gaga, Miley, Kesha and Kylie bringing their yeehaw out of nowhere, so you could say that I've gotten used to that type of music.
I first heard of Kacey in a meme comparing Carly Rae Jepsen's E•MO•TION to Golden Hour and I was really wondering what was so special about that country girl. A few months after that, I heard a snippet of 'High Horse' and it was a bop at first listen so I decided to download the album while preparing for my trip to Vietnam and South Korea. I listened to the first half of the album on the plane and it really was so good! I was shook and my wig definitely flew to Texas or Tennessee or whatever yeehaw place you can think of.
But the track that really stood out for me was 'Happy & Sad'. I don't think that there's anything special sonically about the track but the vibe, the lyrics, and the E•MO•TION of it that meant I couldn't stop my tears from falling while listening to the track for the first time. Unfortunately, my moment had to be cut short because the plane was about to land and I had to pretend that I was crying because of the loud noises.
I was lowkey a mess back in July because I've just graduated high school and I didn't really know where I'd end up in September, study-wise. And while I was happy to travel with my family, I was kinda sad at the same time within my personal life so you could say that I was "lost.mp3". But this song and the album in general were like a warm hug for me. Golden Hour is the soundtrack to my summer 2018 and 'Happy & Sad' is definitely my song of the year! Who knew I had to become a space cowboy in order to survive this year?
14. Little Mix - Wasabi
Submitted By: @Ari
2018 saw the release of LM5 from legendary iconic girl group Little Mix. After the massive success of their previous album Glory Days, they had big boots to fill but they did not disappoint!
Many songs on this album are very different to their previous sound which has received some mixed reactions, but one song we can all hopefully agree on is the iconic bop that is 'Wasabi'. Penned by none other than legendary group member and LGBTQ icon Jade Thirlwall, as well as written and produced by the iconic MNEK, 'Wasabi' is the hoe anthem that we all need in our lives.
From the catchy lyrics to the boppy beat and bass to even the harmonising "oh oh"'s, Little Mix show us that they will never be limited to one sound as a girl group and that each album they give us will be unique and fresh and work with all four members no matter the style of song. And that is why 'Wasabi' is one of the best songs of 2018.
13. Mariah Carey - GTFO
Submitted By: @Skinny Legend
Mariah Carey was never entirely gone from the music scene, with releases like the festive 'The Star' and the messy 'I Don't' holding fans over since her last album, 2014's Me. I Am Mariah... The Elusive Chanteuse. Even so, our first offering from this year's Caution plays out just like a comeback single should, harking back to the classics that made gave Mariah her 18 #1's while propelling her unique form of balladry into the modern age. Don't let the title fool you; 'GTFO' is a down-tempo, moody heartbreak song, which is only slightly offset by it's angsty and comedic chorus of "How 'bout you get the fuck out?". While 'GTFO' was far from a hit, it did reach meme status pretty quickly and it's sound is probably the closest thing to a smash song that Mariah could get to in 2018. Fingers crossed that the next release from Caution will do a little better.
12. Ariana Grande - No Tears Left To Cry
Submitted By: @Fetish
My favorite song of this year has to be the gorgeous introduction to Ariana Grande's fourth album Sweetener. 'No Tears Left To Cry' almost instantly became a hit due to its beautiful production and even dreamier music video. The track defied expectations for Ariana, as she took inspiration from the Manchester tragedy to curate both a meaningful hard-hitting track and a seemingly lighthearted dance track. The upbeat nature of the production secures the song as a beautiful track filled with the celebration of all things, as Ariana twists the idea of no longer being able to cry into a transition towards happiness. With a catchy instrumental and even catchier lyrics by Max Martin, the song has easily established itself as one of the best songs of 2018 in my books.
11. Tinashe - Ooh La La
Submitted By: @Glamleska
Tinashe Jorgensen Kachingwe is the slept on R&B up-and-comer that's been championed as an unbeatable contender for seven years running, and this year she takes the stage with my favourite song 'Ooh La La'. Though this year has been considered a difficult one for Tinashe – from being dropped by RCA to going home earlier than deserved on Dancing With The Stars to the unjustly scrapped EP project NASHE – she still delivered one of my favorite R&B tracks of this decade.
Track number five, 'Ooh La La', off her sophomore album Joyride has remained at the top of my rotation since its release. Though the album was heavily criticized, I found this track to be an incredible standout. I didn’t mind the album either, with the exception of there being way too many features. Between the nostalgic squeaking sound effect reminiscent of Trillville’s 'Some Cut', the heavy pulsating 808s, and her smooth harmonies over the chorus, 'Ooh La La' was everything I needed from an R&B track in 2018. It’s a shame it wasn’t released as a single over some other questionable choices - *cough* 'Me So Bad' - but I digress. Here’s to 2019 and another year of hoping my Aquarian sister finds some success independently! STOP SLEEPING ON TINASHE 2K19. #BuyJoyrideOniTunes
10. Lady Gaga - I'll Never Love Again
Submitted By: @Skinny Legend
Although she's best known for her dance/pop tracks, Lady Gaga has always been an incredible balladeer, as she's shown countless times in fan favourite songs like 'Brown Eyes', 'Speechlees' and 'Angel Down'. But while she's explored rooting tooting rock ballads and unsettling acoustic work, Gaga had never lent her vocals to a straight up power ballad before the release of this year's A Star Is Born soundtrack. 'I'll Never Love Again' is the final track on that album, although it appears as the penultimate song on the tracklisting as well with a slightly different ending, and after the high energy rock and roll attitude of the soundtrack and the movie it's the perfect song to listen to as the audience reflects back on the events of the story. Although the lyrics can be slightly over-sentimental and cheesy, the beautiful orchestral work can't be faulted and Gaga's voice sounds the best it ever has, even without any hint of Autotune or post-production work. Put simply, 'I'll Never Love Again' is a masterpiece on par with Whitney's 'I Will Always Love You', Mariah's 'Without You' and Celine's 'All By Myself', and the only shame about the song is that the charts didn't revere it as such.
9. Cher - The Winner Takes It All
Submitted By: @Ruthless Love
Yes, the song itself is not from 2018, however Cher's rendition is and it is magically perfect. Following her role in Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, the legendary Cher announced she'd be releasing an album full of ABBA covers, and the result was Dancing Queen. The album itself is flawlessly perfect from beginning to end, and the standout song for me is the second-to-last, 'The Winner Takes it All'. Originally released by ABBA in 1980 from their Super Trouper album, the song is magical in its lyrical content, and under the direction of Cher and music producer Mark Taylor, it's truly uplifting and easy-listening at its best. It's still ABBA, but with a special twist of Cher-riffic talent and gold. This song is not-to-be-missed.
8. Hailee Steinfeld & BloodPop® - Capital Letters
Submitted By: @Cypher
There were a lot of songs this year that were good in glimpses, but one that stood out is 'Capital Letters' by Hailee Steinfeld and BloodPop®. Coming down from his production on the Justin Bieber collaboration 'Friends', BloodPop® was able to capture the cinematics and emotions of a new romance. With Ellie Goulding thrown into the mix as a co-writer, the song comes together with some of the highest highs of 2018. 'Capital Letters' is a feel-good song about falling into the whirlwind that comes with any new relationship. After what seemed to be a melodramatic 2017 full of anticipation, this song kicked off 2018 with new goals, bright rays of light, and hope for a better tomorrow. Though the single did not become a smash hit in any region, it thrives as an underrated piece of pop perfection with a timeless sound.
7. Au/Ra - Emoji
Submitted By: @Cock Destroyer
'Emoji' is underrated and one of my most played songs this year. I thought 'Panic Room' would be Au/Ra's best song but then she released this masterpiece. I love the production, the melodies, everything. It's quite different from today's pop but still a pop song. I feel like if t.A.t.U released a song today, it would sound like this.
6. Demi Lovato - Sober
Submitted By: @Whoknowsmehere
I have listened to a lot of my favorite songs from 2018 (and there are a quite a few of them) over the last couple of days to determine my fave; but this one particular song just kept coming back to me over and over.
The fact that this song hit so close to home for me is my primary reason for choosing it. That, and I actually enjoyed listening to it very much over and over again. I have probably listened to it at least a hundred times since it came out. I will not get into a long drawn out explanation, other than to say I know what exactly Demi is talking about in this song.
I know this song did not get a lot of air time. Nor much, if any, acclaim. But for me that is not what makes a great song. The message is what did it for me.
5. Rina Sawayama - Cherry
Submitted By: @Skinny Legend
Rina Sawayama might still be a relative unknown in the pop music scene, but in the burgeoning realm of underground queer pop artists which includes Charli XCX and Kim Petras she's a frontrunner of the genre. Like these two artists she's fully capable of self-referential and ironic hyper-pop bops, as she proved last year with 'Cyber Stockholm Syndrome'; but with 'Cherry', the Japanese-English Sawayama proves that she has more up her sleeve than just that. 'Cherry' is not only a slice of alternative pop heaven in it's production, but a vulnerable admission of sexual curiosity that's rarely heard in pop music. "Down the subway, you looked my way/With your girl gaze, with your girl gaze/That was the day everything changed/Couldn't stay the same" introduces the song, and for the most part it's the perfect introduction of Sawayama herself - soft yet strong, insecure yet confident, and enigmatic yet honest. If Rina has more "cherries" like this on the way, then we get the feeling the sky's the limit for how far she'll go.
4. Mark Ronson - Nothing Breaks Like a Heart (Feat. Miley Cyrus)
Submitted By: @Tweener
After taking a social media hiatus, the legendary Miley Cyrus teamed up with the amazing producer Mark Ronson (known mostly for his work with Lady Gaga) and created the song of the millennium! Miley did what other girls wished to do and what they should've done a long time ago. The song and the powerful music video convey a very important message of contemporary society mindlessly following the news about the Kardashians, and other celebrities not paying enough attention to real problems like police brutality, racism, kids running around with guns, greed in stores, and clerks' hypocrisy. The video is comprised of many LGBTQ references as well, which doesn't come as a surprise considering Miley is an LGBTQ icon who, unlike many other pop girls nowadays, fight for our rights not for publicity but because she truly believes in our cause. This is a new gay anthem which charts high all around the world. It's undeniably one of the best songs of 2018 if not of all time.
3. Robyn - Honey
Submitted By: @BlackoutZone
Crowned the second best song of 2018 by Pitchfork for a reason, the title track of Robyn's recent album is a joyful journey of the senses. After two years of teasing, expectations for the track reached high heavens yet Robyn effortlessly exceeded them all and delivered the masterpiece we all wished for. The song itself is so juicy and so flourishing as it builds that you can almost taste it. The sound becomes the flavour of golden honey waves that your mind surfs on while listening. Though Mariah and Katy B already showed us how seductive honey can be, it's never been done with such delicacy, and Robyn totally elevated the concept of it being a pure sexual pleasure.
And the waves come in and they're golden/
But down in the deep the honey is sweeter
2. Kim Petras - Heart To Break
Submitted By: @Skinny Legend
Kim Petras first hit my radar with her insanely catchy ode to consumerism 'I Don't Want It At All', but it was with 'Heart To Break' that she truly claimed her position as one to watch. 'Heart To Break' went on to become my most listened song of 2018, but it's more than just an earworm. In describing the fairytale of a girl who gives her heart away even while knowing it will soon be broken, Petras ascends to the level of lyrical mastery shown by artists such as Robyn and Utada Hikaru, both of whom pen bittersweet pop songs with danceable beats made even more brilliant by their heartbreaking lyrics. 'Heart To Break' is impressive on it's own, but when you consider it in the context of Kim's strong voice, brilliant lyricism and unique image it makes you question why she isn't already #1 on every chart.
1. Christina Aguilera - Accelerate (Feat. Ty Dolla $ign & 2 Chainz)
Submitted By: @liberation
Six years after the not so well received album Lotus, Christina Aguilera released 'Accelerate', the first taste of her sixth album (or eighth if you count Mi Reflejo and My Kind of Christmas). When it was revealed that the song was produced by Kanye West and featured Ty Dolla $ign and 2 Chainz, everyone knew that Urbantina was making her comeback, but I guess that we were all very surprised after our first listen, because the song is so...weird? The intro is very strange with hypnotic Ty vocals and heavy drums, and when Xtina starts with her verses there's a lot of ad libs by him. The song is pretty much a duet between two of them until the beat changes drastically and 2 Chainz joins with an iconic bridge.
When the song ended I was shocked because it was the messiest thing I've ever heard, but that's the reason why I loved it. I'm pretty sure that the reason why XTina is my favorite artist is because she's not afraid of taking risks. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. When it comes to 'Accelerate', I think it's the best song off Liberation and also her best song in a very long time, so I guess it worked for me. The video is very simple and sometimes it even looks a bit low budget, but I don't mind; I think it's sexy and fits the song very well, and it shows that she still owns her sexuality and doesn't give two fucks about what people think of her. At the end of the day, 'Accelerate' is a 10/10 song that is not predictable at all and I believe that it will age very well, and that’s why it is my song of the year.
What songs did we forget about in our hunt for 2018's best track? Let us know in the comments down below!